The Wolves are howling

Randy Russon
September 30, 2018

Sudbury Wolves are showing some teeth. Since being soundly cuffed by the Barrie Colts just a few days ago, the Wolves have responded with a pair of come-from-behind victories to improve their record to 3-2-0 in the early going of the 2018-2019 Ontario Hockey League season.

There were grumbles of “same old Wolves” that were heard after Sudbury was shellacked to the tune of 10-3 by Barrie last week. But maybe, just maybe, the Wolves are ready to leave the OHL wilderness.

Since the 10-3 loss, the Wolves rebounded with a 5-2 win over the Oshawa Generals and then upended Barrie 3-2 in a rematch with the Colts. In both weekend games, the Wolves overcame 2-0 deficits to register the back-to-back, home-ice victories.

Five games represent a mere fraction of a 68-game regular season. But the Wolves have a howl to them with a pack of new and returning players that seem bent on reversing the fortunes of the OHL in Sudbury.

Recent history shows Sudbury having missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, including the 2017-2018 term in which the Wolves finished in last place in the Eastern Conference — and last overall in the 20-team OHL — with a mere 43 points from a record of 17-42-9.

Rookie forward Quinton Byfield and incoming goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen have both played starring roles to date.

The 6-foot-4 Byfield, who Sudbury took with the first overall pick at this year’s OHL priority selections draft, has 3 goals, 3 assists for a team-leading 6 points to date. He scored the game winning goal in overtime in the 3-2 victory over Barrie.

And Luukkonen, who is a second round, National Hockey League draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, has a 2-0-0 record with the Wolves after missing the first three games of the season while attending to school requirements in his native Finland. Luukkonen — who Sudbury took with the first pick of the 2018 Canadian Hockey League import draft — has a 1.96 goals against average and .929 save percentage in winning successive weekend starts.

Veterans who have been around during the multiple losing seasons have chipped in with points in the early going for Sudbury.

Shane Bulitka has 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points in 5 outings and fellow 1999 birth year forward David Levin has 2-2-4 totals in 5 games.

With a record of 1-2-0 on the road and 2-0-0 at home, the Wolves face a tough three-game sled on the highways this week with games against the Niagara IceDogs, Erie Otters and Kitchener Rangers.

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